Beyond the arc: 3 takeaways from No. 7 Florida’s 87-84 loss to No. 1 Duke


Three observations following Florida’s loss to Duke in the PK80 Tournament finals:

— Despite being more experienced than Duke, Florida was the shakier team down the stretch. The Gators had a couple of loud turnovers late, with senior point guard Chris Chiozza getting the ball stolen by Trevon Duval with 1:15 left and junior guard Jalen Hudson losing his dribble with 12 seconds remaining and Florida down 85-84. Chiozza said fatigue may have played a role in UF’s poor offensive execution down the stretch as Florida coach Mike White shortened the bench rotation in the title game against the No. 1 team in the country. Chiozza and junior guard KeVaughn Allen each played 35 minutes, while Hudson played 36 minutes and guard Egor Koulechov played 34 minutes. Backup freshman point guard Mike Okauru played only three minutes and perhaps could have been used for longer stretches to give Chiozza a breather.

— Another reason why Florida was unable to hold a 17-point second half lead was post defense and defensive rebounds. The undersized Gators were able to hold their own with Duke on the glass until the final five minutes, when the Blue Devils outrebounded the Gators 8-1 (Duke outrebounded Florida 43-36 for the game). Florida junior center Kevarrius Hayes had a sure fire offensive rebound wrestled away from him. Freshmen Marvin Bagley III and Duval had back to back putback baskets to cut UF’s lead to 82-74 and begin Duke’s late charge. The 6-11 Bagley scored 30 points and Florida was again outscored 38-34 in the paint. There’s a risk-reward in playing four-guard starting lineups and one of those risks is getting beat on the glass and being unable to match up in the post. Hayes, 6-8 forward Keith Stone and 6-11 Gorjok Gak are going to need to play tougher inside until senior center John Egbunu returns in January.

— Freshman guard Deaundrae Ballard was productive off the bench for the Gators with 6 points and 2 rebounds, and also had a nice save on a ball going out of bounds. The 6-5 Ballard is gaining more and more trust from UF’s coaching staff and possesses and excellent work ethic. Ballard should be able to continue to help the Gators throughout the season with his athletic play.


  1. I saw this happen, a couple of times, late last year:
    With around 4-5 minutes left in the game and with a nice lead, the Gators slowed down their play. Like last night, Chiozza started walking the ball up the court instead of pushing it. Once over halfway, it seems they were trying to run the clock. Eventually, they would make only one or two passes and then settle or, with the clock running out, force a drive and out of control shot. Often missing and with no one in position to rebound.
    If, as Chiozza suggested, they were tiring, why were the Duke players also not tiring? Not a good excuse.
    It seemed like they started playing “prevent defense”. And, much like football, all it usually prevents it winning.
    I’d like to know what others’ take on this is.

    George Luttrell ’74
    Greer, SC

    • You know, it’s interesting. Similar instance was in Sweet 16 last year, when Florida tried to slow it down late and Wisconsin tied it and sent it into overtime. I’ve asked Mike White about this, the fine line being between staying aggressive and running the shot clock with the lead. Billy Donovan always believed you stayed aggressive, but he lost leads at times with that approach as well. Ultimately, my belief is the better team shows itself by the end of the game. Duke is the better team, more complete inside-and-out. But that could change for Florida when Egbunu returns.

    • George, You are right. If the players were tired they should of use the subs to rest for couple minutes so they can play the fast pace but decided to slow down which help Duke out. We should of went after the Duke’s player that had the four fouls because with him being in there it help Bagley out. We did that last year to when we were up instead of just knock them out. We need to close it out instead of trying to conserve the energy for the end.

  2. definitely thought they were running out of gas at the end of the game. as robbie said, florida did not play many minutes off the bench, while duke did. don’t think it was a prevent defense at all, but exhaustion. gators scored 53 first half, but only 31 second half points. still had a 10 point lead with five minutes left, but could not close out. started missing shots and free throws from reliable shooters and a noticeable drop in energy level.

  3. Enough blame to go around. Bad, bad coaching. Players especially Egor and Chiozza throwing up hook runners and one legged fadeaways. Then, Chiozza not taking care of the ball along with Hudson and Hudson missing the front end of a one and one.
    Stone is really messed up with the move to 5. He is not a 5 and no one guarded anyone inside. The transfer Egor is not a 4 either, too short. Need to play the backup PG more and see if he can guard anyone. Chiozza couldn’t guard Allen at all in the first half and our bigs couldn’t guard anyone the entire game. But, the coaching at the end gave the game away. They were moving the ball and doing fine, and then White slows it down and tries to milk the clock. The last play White drew up was horrible. 2 Dukies were chasing Chiozza and one had Allen, there had to be someone open for a 3. White simply got outcoached and Coach K cried his way into every call at the end from the refs.

  4. Agree with all of the comments….we took ourselves out of rhythm, had our “go to” guys (Cheese, Hudson) try to do everything on their own down the stretch, rather than involving the entire team, Hayes was horrendous, throwing passes away, not defending anyone w/o fouling. Our low post defense is going to kill us. However, I thought Egor did a very credible job (as best he could) trying to contain Magley and co. Coach White, has to take responsibility for most of this, but he does have glaring weaknesses to attempt to cover, and for the most part, they have played incredibly well. As much as it hurt (alot!) I much prefer this outcome than a 30 point blowout loss, and it is likely to be a very valuable learning lesson for the entire team. All of that said, LOVE this team, SO much fun to watch, I don’t plan to miss a single minute all season! GO GATORS!

  5. I will call this a learning experience. The team had a great trip out there and should bring home a lot of confidence. I thought our energy the first 30 minutes of the game was unstoppable. As the game slowed, the traditional 50/50 calls by the zebras went to the Devils and that was the game. If we can maintain our energy and pace, I don’t think there is a team that can run with us. Excited about the season! Hope our legs last all season.

  6. Coulda, woulda, shoulda. This is a game we should have won. This is the type of game we need to win if we are going to have a shot at winning a national title. This team has the talent and ability. Now, they need to play at that level consistently and win tough games against very good teams.

  7. We had a great chance to win the game. Now that it’s behind us, I think we’ll be a better team for the loss than we would of have with a win.

    First of all, what a great experience to play the #1 team and push them to the limit. It was a high level game for so early in the season and a joy to watch.

    Florida is still sorting out it’s team dynamic. I thought this game pushed that to the edge in the final minutes and we were NOT ready to meet that challenge. The return of Egbunu is going to be key for filling the void in the post and using our bigs more effectively. Our best play as a team is still ahead of us, as it should be.

    Duke exposed critical flaws and exploited weaknesses to get the win, especially in the last eight or so minutes of the game. The loss will make us better as more post presence and offensive firepower is coming on line by February with the return of Egbunu.

  8. recap : Gators have played great! Way beyond what i expected.
    This tournament team steeped up and over all played great.
    This team will score, and that is exciting to watch.
    Defense and rebounding is better than i expected.

    There is way to much negative stuff is being written here.
    Support the gators or go elsewhere.

    Egor played great def against other teams best player/scorer who was 6 inches taller and 30 lbs heavier.

    Coach has done fantastic job coaching this team that has 5 true freshmen and 2 transfers. Level of play here in Nov is incredible.

    Duke took 1 point lead on obvious offensive foul, and hung on to win.
    Had ref called the offensive foul (even announcers could not believe ref missed that call) it would have fouled out Duke Lg Fwrd that was killing us inside.
    With that correct call UF has 1 point lead and holds on to win.

    Yes UF had poor unforced turnovers at the end.

    In a way it is probably better to lose a game, (that players know they should have won).Because-
    *They will not lose future games that way.
    *With the win / media / hype /expectations probably change team pych (they get big head)

    Now they can play with a chip on shoulders.

    I will not be missing any games.
    It is great to be a gator basketball fan.


    • Well said, Buck. Without Egbunu and with Hayes playing without enough fire and focus, we had little chance of slowing down Bagley, probably the best player in the country. Fans can blame Mike White for slowing down the tempo, but if he’d kept the hammer down and the Gators ended up missing shots with 20 seconds on the shot clock, the same fans would be complaining that he should have (NOT SHOULD “OF” LIKE SO MANY TYPE–sorry, pet peeve) run more time off the shot clock. The truth is the Gators got some good looks in the slower tempo and just missed. Chiozza made a great pivot in the lane to get a wide open tear-drop shot from about 5 feet that just didn’t go down. Allen had a couple of open 3’s that he missed, and of course, Hudson uncharacteristically missed the FT. If the Gators had gotten the offensive foul call against Carter for clearing out Allen, it could’ve been a 4 point swing that might have sealed a victory. As it was, there’s no shame in losing a tight game to the top ranked team … disappointment? yes; shame? no.

  9. The reason Duke did not tire was they have more players that Coach K trusts. Basically what Mike White said was that he does not trust his back up point guard and the other line ups against teams of Duke’s caliber. He probably also thinks that if Cheese and Hudson turned the ball over once, what would have happened to the other guys. I think Coach White knows that this team cannot run at this pace for the entire game and he was doing his best to cover up our weaknesses. It just didn’t work. The better team, that night, won the game. Having a big man in the middle will give us an inside presence and might make the difference. Also, it was mentioned that Coach White did this against Wisconsin. Could it be that he was also trying to hide our weaknesses in that game? Both games were without Egbunu. And we are still easily in the national championship hunt. The game is in November and will not show up as a bad loss in March. It’s fine. Basketball is a long grind. We weren’t going undefeated. This team will be just fine.

  10. Lay off our coach! Wouldn’t trade our coach for anyone. We have one of (if not the best) coach in the country! Every game has some bad passes or bad shots. You can always go back and nit pick any game. We gave the #1 team in the country a hard fought game. Love this team and their hustle. I am really enjoying this season.